Ahwatukee residents looking for a way to burn off some of that Thanksgiving dinner in a safe, healthy way that’s not too far from home don’t have to look any farther than Desert Visa High School.
There, at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 25, hundreds of people of all ages will be gathering for the third annual Tukee Trot. Sign-up is at raceroster.com/events/2022/61374/tukee-trot-5k.
You don’t have to necessarily be fleet of foot to enter or have a good time, said Hans Loudon, one of the Trot’s organizers.
“We realized that Ahwatukee needed its own local Thanksgiving turkey trot/5K, given the high number of runners, walkers and outdoor fitness enthusiasts in our community,” he explained.
“However, we also wanted to make this event family-oriented for the holiday where we can give back to the community,” Loudon continued. “One of the best parts is the 1-mile kids Fun Run around Vista Canyon park where the kids chase the Quail and also get finisher awards, all totally free.
“It is really terrific to see all the smiles on the kids taking part in this healthy fun.”
The Trot started in 2019 with longtime Ahwatukee residents and running parents at Desert Vista but has continued blossoming to embrace people from throughout the community.
It also is becoming a significant charity as organizers partner with the Kyrene Foundation to support its annual Winter Wonderland – a district-wide effort to make Christmas a little merrier for Kyrene families in need.
“The needs are now more real than ever after the effects of the COVID-related challenges,” said Loudon. “This is why we call it Ahwatukee’s Local Race with a Big Heart.”
Loudon said the group picked the day after Thanksgiving not just to burn calories but because “people are looking for something fun to do with friends and family in town and it helps to burn off the big meal.”
Moreover, he noted, “the roads are quieter than Thanksgiving and it was better for our local Phoenix Police for road closures and traffic guidance. It also makes Thanksgiving less stressful especially with folks traveling in from out of town...and the Black Friday shopping craze is not what it used to be.”
The Tukee Trot organizers still enjoy Thanksgiving itself with a family meal and relaxation because they’ve spent so much time preparing well in advance for the run/walk.
“It really is all about advanced preparations with lots of checklists and every one pitching in,” Loudon said. “We try to get everything set after the Wednesday pre-registration and then just load the vehicles on Thursday night. Then we just let magic happen.”
Of course, sometimes they need more than magic, as their inaugural Trot demonstrated.
“Our biggest worry is the weather,” Loudon said. “In our first year in 2019 we had a massive rain downpour and even tornados in the Valley. But that did not stop 350 participants from showing up and making for a really great event.
“And the sun finally came out right at race time!”
Of course, the pandemic in 2020 forced the Trot’s cancellation, but it return last year with even more participants. This year, organizers hope to see at least 500 people join the fun.
And Loudon stressed organizers consistently look to tweak the event.
“We aim to make it better each year by building on feedback for improvement,” he said, noting they’ve added a category for participants over age 80 this year.
All finishers get medals and official Tukee Trot mugs.
They’ve also been able to add two local sponsors since last year – State Farm and Once Upon a Child.
“We would not be able to host this event and contribute to our Kyrene Foundation charity without the support of our terrific local sponsors that align to our community and fitness mission,” Loudon said.
“We aim to keep the entry fees comparably low in the face of increasing costs and still contribute to charity in a meaningful way - it’s the sponsors that help make that happen.
Other sponsors include Desert Vista High, Soul Sports Running one, Orfe Kelly Real Estate, Prtchette Physical Therapy, Global Bikes, and Illuminate You Fitness.
“Overall we measure progress as the number of smiles generated,” he added, calling it “ great way to have outdoor fun with family and friends on the holiday weekend while being part of a community and charity event. You can race, run, walk - whatever works for you.”
They also have teams formed by families or groups of friends. Last year, the Orendorff family had a team of 11 and are back again this year to challenge for the bragging rights for largest family team.
For families, the kids under 12 can either join the 1-mile fun run for free or they can do the 5K. “We have had more than a few runners completing the 3.1 mile run with ages as low as 7 and 8 years old and have a under 12 age-group awards category,” Loudon said.
He added that the 5K run has “posted some very impressive racing times in
the last two years for both women and men, attracting elite and age-group runners within and beyond our Ahwatukee community.”
“So it will be really interesting to see what fast times we will see this year,” he said. “It’s fun just to watch.”